TV and Radio
Red Rock’s disparate energies are a joy to watch; Baby Hater looks to goad tempers, but doesn’t want to get in too deep; and How Ireland Eats is a brilliant document of what we eat
Screen and sound reviews
The gardaí of Red Rock (TV3, Monday, 9pm), a brooding seaside town near Dublin, have had their fair share of mysteries, from murders and missing persons to corruption and drug crime. But their biggest cliffhanger of all involves the fate of the series. Postponed abruptly last August, with 23 episodes almost ready to go, it now returns after its rude interruption with little clarity over its future.
Hopes for its long-term survival were dealt a blow last year when the Player Wills cigarette factory, where it is filmed, was sold for redevelopment, and soon reports began to circulate that even its props were being sold off. (That seems far-fetched. Who in this country would be interested in fake breathalyser tests?)
Such ambiguity makes Red Rock’s central mystery all the more poignant, because it’s always been hard to say where the show belongs. It’s almost too substantial, pacy and considered to count as a soap opera, too tortuous and hot-tempered for straight drama, and far too witty for its own good. Expertly made and very well written, Red Rock doesn’t have difficulty in containing those disparate energies, though, and that makes its latest episode a pleasure to watch.
Take the moment Johno (Paul Hickey), a garda sergeant, finds a small packet of cocaine on his outwardly respectable squeeze, Patricia Hennessy (Cathy Belton). “Someone must have put it in my bag,” she shrugs, none too convincingly. “At a drugs awareness ball?” he deadpans.
There is a proper procedure for everything in Red Rock, and though nobody follows it, the show respects you enough to admit it.
The discovery of a missing woman, a prostitute found dead in the woods, spins her tearaway teenage daughter, Aoife (Lorna Meade), into immediate jeopardy. That Paudge Brennan (Patrick Ryan), a compromised cop and desperate landlord who has dabbled in arson, is the garda who tries to find her alternative shelter is one of the ironies of the show; he doesn’t have a good track record with accommodation.
Still, the kid needs a place to stay and he needs redemption. So when Paudge and Aoife shyly meet eyes after an unhelpful consultation with social services, it seems there is no situation so dire that
Red Rock can’t find a flash of fun.
That may be the guiding logic to the series, whose characters – rarely wholly bad, never wholly good – are always caught up in moral dilemmas, and may go either way.
It would be a shame to wind such a series down. These waves of calamity and reversal could roll on forever.
The premise of Joanne McNally’s conversational documentary Baby Hater (TV3, Wednesday, 9pm) is that she doesn’t want kids, feels 80 per cent certain about it, but is still inclined to brood on the subject. “Like, I killed a cactus,” she says to the camera, with customary withering wit and eyes that flash wide. “That takes work.”
Still, the decision to have, or not to have, children is an emotive subject and one that every stranger on the internet seems to have an opinion about. Asked to
‘‘ For a show preoccupied with conception and choice, the subject of abortion is never raised, as though Joanne McNally, left, doesn’t want to take on that responsibility either
about her indifference to posterity for an online publication, McNally worries first about being trolled.
Scrolling later through her article’s stack of tut-tutting comments, as though drawn to their flame, she seems less indifferent to motherhood than hungry for material.
“Honestly, I could listen to him all day because he’s very entertaining,” she says at the end of a Skype conversation with a similarly performative provocateur. The title Baby
Hater is similarly designed to goad tempers, but the show really doesn’t want to get in too deep. One of the people McNally speaks to is the comedian Tara Flynn, who has been a vocal and taboo-shattering supporter of Repeal the Eighth. But for a show preoccupied with conception and choice, the subject of abortion is never raised, as though McNally doesn’t want to take on that responsibility either.
Instead, she canvasses the world for opinion, hearing from strangers and friends, none more endearingly than her adoptive mother.
“It’s quite a hard route to take,” her mother advises. “You’re never your own person again.”
It can be hard to tell whether McNally begins to vacillate for our benefit (“Suddenly flash cars and designer handbags seem kind of empty”) or if she is genuinely buffeted by competing sentiments.
The voice that most concerns her, though, belongs to an American woman, Victoria Elder, who regrets having her child. “She’s looking up at me with my blue eyes,” Elder recalls of her infant daughter, with an emphasis that implies she has been robbed, “and I’m thinking: I’ve made a horrible mistake.”
Moved by the implications of a fertility check, Joanne later says, with apparent sincerity, “I think it would suit me. I think I would make a good mum.” Thirty seconds later she says the precise opposite, capricious to the end. It’s as though her thoughts on the matter have turned into its own rollicking comment thread. Faced with such a cacophony of opinions, this swirl of humanity, you can understand McNally’s dilemma. Who would want to add to it?
We are what we eat
George Orwell once marvelled that so little serious attention is paid to food. “A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into,” he wrote. “A man dies and is buried, and all his words and actions are forgotten, but the food he has eaten lives after him in the sound or rotten bones of his children.”
That’s one glorious elaboration on the maxim “You are what you eat”. Another now arrives in the shape of One Day: How Ireland
Eats (RTÉ One, Monday, 9.35pm). Framed as a day in the life of Ireland’s food supply, it begins before dawn, skipping briskly between the insomniac glare of a 24-hour service station, the unnaturally early risers of Dublin’s Victorian Fruit and Vegetable market and a slumbering Louth potato farm, still shrouded in mist.
The focus is deceptively simple, but the documentary’s technique is curiously godlike; accessing all areas, laden with statistics, it sees all and knows all.
In a similar and satisfying way, the hand that shapes it is invisible.
People speak as though unprompted, too occupied with urgent tasks to become selfconscious, assisted by Maeve O’Mahony’s serene voiceover.
“She’s with us all the time,” an employee of a gargantuan supermarket warehouse says of another voice, the arm-mounted computer politely issuing orders. “You hear her in your sleep.”
Another vivid character is Ciaran Butler, an energetic trader at the Dublin Victorian market. The show wisely checks back with him throughout the day, for the warm irony of his schedule (“We never stop for lunch”), to the singular aptness of his metaphors. “John, I’m in a bit of a pickle,” he says. Well, he should know.
Director and producer Brian Hayes makes subtle, resonant juxtapositions with his shots – as gorgeously composed as an aerial study of a jittery potato harvester – and his scenes.
So you float from the diesel fumes beneath 2,500 army meals (today serving chicken tikka) to a Dún Laoghaire food bank: “The fact that people are still suffering from hunger in Ireland,” comments one volunteer. “It’s a terrible state to be in.”
You may think about that scene again when you meet a chef preparing lobster, steak and caviar for a private jet carrying just six passengers, not because the programme forces any interpretation, but because it is so generous with detail.
That’s why the facts, as uncanny as they are to consider – we spend ¤20 million a day on snacks, serve three million portions of chicken, drink 15 million cups of tea – are actually less revealing than the tapestry.
Here is a real and illuminating portrait of a nation, shared, like so many things, over food; an artfully composed and brilliant document of what you eat, what you are.
There is no situation so dire that Red Rock, above, can’t find a flash of fun The premise of Joanne McNally’s conversational documentary Baby Hater, below left, is that she doesn’t want kids, feels 80 per cent certain about it, but is still inclined to brood on the subject Top right, One Day: How Ireland Eats is an artfully composed and brilliant document of what you eat, what you are